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Security How To

Piracy Predicaments

(Note: While we at Tom's Networking do not endorse illegal activity of any kind - even victimless crimes such as jaywalking and the tearing of tags from mattresses - we do realize that pirated software and movies are a real part of traveling, and provide this advice to help you protect yourself from technical and legal problems when dealing with such software.)

In many places throughout the world, the forbidden fruits of pirated software sit ripe for the plucking by travelers and locals alike (Figure 7). These generally carry an incredibly low price, and can often seem like too good of a deal to resist. While most are benign from a security standpoint, they all come with the potential for Trojans and backdoors that can turn your computer into a slavish zombie. Keep in mind that the pirated software market is truly 'buyer beware', and that even Sony's rootkit efforts pale in comparison to some of the malware that may be present in pirated software.

Figure 7: A rack of pirated software on a street corner.

Figure 7: A rack of pirated software on a street corner.

Customs and immigration presents another potential issue to users wishing to purchase pirated software abroad. In recent years, customs officials have become more vigilant in cracking down on the importation of pirated software. So you may not only have your cheap software confiscated by Customs, but also potentially find yourself slapped with a fine or jail time, depending on how much software you have purchased.

The bottom line is this: if you wish to purchase pirated software abroad, know and accept the risks. It is illegal and may prove harmful to the computer that it is installed on, but it's also cheaper than a hot dog and almost as readily available. For good or ill, you are on your own when it comes to pirated software, and don't expect anyone else to go to bat for you if you find yourself with a broken computer, a stiff fine or worse!


While this article may sound like it's full of doom and gloom, it is not. The benefits of traveling far outweigh the identity theft dangers, and 90% of the time you will find yourself with all your personal information intact even over the most insecure connection. However, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" is almost a mantra in the security industry, and it is even more relevant when traveling. Simply being aware the things that may happen in an untrusted computing environment can go a long way towards keeping you safe and secure while traveling, and taking a few cautionary steps to help protect yourself can help ensure a safe trip.

So go forth and travel the world. Wine, dine, and have a good time. Go on adventures that would make Gulliver jealous. Just keep in mind these few precautions so that you can come home to your own identity once the voyage ends.

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